Meet this couple whose Siddha-based drink refreshes many a regular at the Gandhi Park

Tucked away in a corner of Anna Nagar, the Gandhi Park is abuzz with activity well before the crack of dawn. From walking to jogging, most people find their own pace to move around the park, while some others play a game of badminton and a few more take part in a group yoga session. The children keep themselves occupied on the swings and the monkey bars or walk along side their parents, looking at the morning sunlight dripping in through the canopy of trees. As the summer sun signals everyone that it is time to wrap up their morning workout session, Palanichamy and his wife, Lalithabai, who are practitioners of Siddha, walk in with a home-brewed Siddha drink to kick start everyone’s morning. A concoction made of many Indian herbs such as betel leaves, neem, omam and pepper, the drink proves to be a socialising agent for all the fitness enthusiasts around.

People from all walks of life gather around to chat over their morning health drink which has become an indispensible part of their workout sessions. Retirees, advocates, bank managers, railway officers and people from different professional disciplines sip their drink and voice their concerns about the social and political issues of the day. Over a cup of health drink, the early risers of Anna Nagar have found a place to meet and make friends, often discussing problems from work and life, to clear their mind before they start their day. “We have too many personal and social responsibilities during the day, so we only get to do this in the mornings”, says Nallaperumal and complains that without the drink he feels sluggish throughout the day.

The brewers of this famous concoction, Dr. Palanichamy and Dr. Lalithabai, are retired Siddha doctors who fell in love while they were qualifying themselves in Indian medicine. After travelling through South India, educating people about various Indian herbs and medicines, the couple moved to Chennai to enjoy their retirement. For 11 years they frequented the park before they came upon the idea of providing their home-brewed drink to their old friends and now, many new ones. “It’s all about sharing what you know,” says Dr. Palanichamy, who smiles generously at everyone and holds the same views about happiness. “When we’re happy in life, it is important to spread the happiness to those we come across.”

Married for the last 40 years, the retired doctor couple still seem very much in love with each other and with life. Dr. Lalithabai’s love for variety makes sure that the morning drink she makes has different ingredients and flavour every day. To mark the beginning of the summer vacation, a health drink that tasted deceptively similar to lemon juice was made for the children who’ve begun to visit the park in the mornings. This just goes to show that whatever your age, your profession or preferred morning exercise routine, the morning socials in Gandhi Park will be more than happy to have you join them.